Maria Ribas is a literary agent who turns great ideas into beautiful books, specializing in cookbooks, home design, personal development, business, and spirituality. She likes those topics so much she also writes about them on her blog, Cooks & Books.
Every day I work on cookbooks — those stunningly gorgeous, so-delicious-it-hurts cookbooks we all love. But all of the pretty, all of the time can be, well, too much. So when my eyes can’t stand another perfectly styled and crisp food photo, I know it’s time to retreat to my vintage cookbook shelf. We all have those old cookbooks that just mean the world to us, don’t we? We hold onto them our whole lives because the feeling they give us is completely irreplaceable.
If you’re anything like us, you travel to eat and drink your way through the cultures of the world, shamelessly plugging five meals a day into your itineraries in the name of research, gluttony, and personal glory. There’s nothing more gratifying than finally eating that Bistecca alla Fiorentina we read about months ago or feeling ultra-cool when we discover a street cart other tourists are missing — am I right?
It’s 6 o’clock. You’re done with work for the day, you walk into the kitchen, and you pull out your cutting board to prep dinner. Thirty minutes later, you blink and look up and realize you spent the entire time composing a work email in your head. Sound familiar? See more of the kitchen pictured above: An Artistic, Colorful, Vintage-Inspired Home at Apartment Therapy This happens to me all the time. And I make cookbooks for a living (for shame!).
With the last days of summer still ahead of us and the heat sticking to our backs, you might think grilling, grilling, and grilling are your only options for dinner. But picking at grilled chicken while scrolling through everyone else’s vacation photos is a straight path to lunacy.
I still remember the first time I heard the word “ketogenic.” I was in a brainstorming meeting at a cookbook publisher several years ago, and the question was, “What’s the next Paleo?” We tossed around all the up-and-coming eating trends and picked a few we would watch. I tucked the word “ketogenic” into my back pocket and soon forgot about it. This New Year’s Day, I bought my first ketogenic cookbook. Because, you see, now everyone is doing it.
In the deepest part of our hearts, we all believe one thing: You don’t really have to cook in warm weather. (You can blow it off entirely, in fact, if you cover your tracks well.) That’s because the vegetables are blooming and the ambition is wilting just in time to call in sick and head to the beach with a bag of apricots. But after we’ve had our fill of unadulterated spring produce, our stomachs might finally start grumbling for cooked food.
What’s the sign of a great cookbook in 2018? You don’t know what shelf to put it on. Does Shaya by James Beard award-winning chef Alon Shaya go next to the Israeli cookbooks? Or next to Marcella Hazan, since Shaya also owns two Italian restaurants, Domenica and Pizza Domenica? Or should we slide it next to Brock? Shaya’s empire is in New Orleans, after all, and there’s a hard-to-resist recipe for red beans and rice on page 197.
Did you just order an Instant Pot during Amazon Prime Day? Welcome to the IP Club! Now, because you probably have no idea what you should actually do with the machine once it arrives, I strong suggest one more purchase: a cookbook. And not just any cookbook. I have a particular one in mind. There are two kinds of people in this world: the gadget minimalists and the gadget maximalists. And America’s hottest new appliance — the Instant Pot — is actually meant for both kinds.
Do you know what’s better than eating out with your friends? Cooking with your friends. And yet, it’s so easy to fall into a rut of solo weeknight cooking and prepped-ahead dinner parties on weekends. The solution? A cookbook club. A cookbook club will get you back to the great national pastime of community cooking, and it will help you finally cook from all those cookbooks you’ve been hoarding.
One of my cookbook authors taught me something incredibly important this year: meal planning is about matchmaking. As a literary agent specializing in cookbooks, you could say I have some pretty unrealistic expectations about dinner. Every day, I pore over stunning photos of perfectly seared fish and carefully layered cakes, then I come home and eat taco salad for dinner. I vowed to overhaul my meal planning.